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   Early Spanish Architecture
Early Spanish and Spanish Colonial Architecture, 1698-1846

Homes of adobe were the norm well into the 1800s. The primary building style in New Mexico was a clean, rustic cubical form with adobe walls and flat roofs—a style mandated by local materials. Albuquerque’s isolation created an evolution of Indian Pueblo building techniques with a Spanish influence.

Homes were small, one level and made of adobe. Over time, families enlarged their houses by adding rooms, and as additions were made, the house might take an L-shape or U-shape. Each room had its own entrance from the outside and inner doors were rare.  Small windows were high on the wall and covered with hides or skins when the weather was bad. Floors were packed earth, often soaked with animal blood to control dust. Later on brick was also used for floors.

In the larger houses, rooms were built around a courtyard, or placita. At the back of the house was a corral. The whole complex was enclosed within high adobe walls with no windows or doors and only two sets of gates. The front gate opened to a zaguán, a covered passage wide enough to allow a wagon into the placita. The rear gate opened to the corral.

Sometimes several families built a line of rooms and connected them around a plaza to form a fortified community.

Adobes were an excellent material to use for home building because clay, sand, straw and sunlight were readily available. Using a wooden frame or mold that was open at the top and bottom, settlers produced adobes 18 inches by 10 inches by 5 inches. Then they removed the frames and left adobes on the ground to dry. They used stones for the foundation. Thick mud was used to bind the adobes to each other and to the foundation.

With the walls up, the roof was next. Vigas or beams were placed about 24 inches apart across the walls. They started by using the larger logs at one end and working down to the smaller ones.  This was necessary to make sure that the water would flow off the flat roof.  The ceiling was built by placing straight branches, called latías, across the beams. These were then overlaid with reeds and followed by a cap of several inches of dirt.

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